The White Sox seem to be in the same boat they were in last year: a lot of question marks heading into the season. Expectations that range from, depending who you ask, another division title or a last place finish.
Like last year, if certain young unknowns can step it up, this team could be playing in back to back postseasons for the first time in franchise history.
The biggest question marks on this team are at leadoff hitter, center field and the back end of the rotation. The leadoff hitter and center fielder might end up being the same player. Apparently Ozzie Guillen has awarded both these jobs to Dewayne Wise.
All signs point this move to becoming an epic failure. Dewayne Wise recently turned 31, has a total of 468 major-league at-bats. His OBP in these 468 at-bats? A sad .254.
That’s right, he gets on base 25 percent of the time. Did he have a hot surge in his part time stint with the team last season? No, his OBP was .293 over a course of 129 at bats.
To be fair, Guillen does not have a lot of options at center field. That doesn’t excuse him to make two bad choices in regards to the position itself and the leadoff hitter.
The center field position at the very least should be a platoon with Brian Anderson. In 67 career at-bats against left handed pitching, Wise’s line is .179/.211/.284. Brian Anderson’s line isn't good either, over 259 at-bats against lefties in his career he has a line of .212/.272/.386. Again, not good but obviously a better choice than Wise.
Anderson also plays the center field position at a gold glove level. Wise is barely adequate at the corner outfield positions. This seems like déjà vu again, after the botched Nick Swisher in center field experiment from last year.
The player that should get a chance to prove himself at the leadoff spot is Chris Getz. Getz only has seven major-league at-bats, so he basically has no MLB experience. However, he managed to OBP at a rate of .361 in his four-year minor-league career.
Wise has already proven he is not suitable to leadoff; Getz should get the opportunity to prove he is.
The other question mark on this team and what could decide between going back to the playoffs or being near the bottom of the division will be the performances of Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon.
Contreras is coming back sooner than expected from a ruptured achilles. He’s also dropped 40 pounds and looks like he’s in the best shape since he arrived to the States. Will that actually translate to better pitching?
Who knows, he was average at best last year and his White Sox career has been brilliant at some stretches and erratic in others. All I can say is I have no clue what to expect from Contreras.
While the Sox signed Colon to a low risk incentive laden contract, they are taking a big risk in hoping he can come through as the fifth starter. Colon hasn’t pitched in more than 19 games since 2005 and he was awful in 2006 and 2007.
Kenny Williams felt like he had to trade Javier Vazquez after Vazquez kept letting the Sox down in clutch situations. We’ll see if that comes back to haunt the Sox since Vazquez and his ability to pitch 200 innings a season while posting decent numbers for a third starter are gone.
Starting pitching becomes even more of a question mark because the White Sox will be heavily reliant on two young arms that have only had one good season in the majors each. John Danks and Gavin Floyd are both coming off strong promising seasons.
My prediction is that Danks will improve, I believe this guy can develop into a legit ace.
As for Floyd, my expectations are a little lower. All his metrics point to that he may have gotten a bit lucky last year. His BABIP was noticeably lower than the MLB average, which usually indicates the pitcher had a lot of things go his way that year.
A strength we know the White Sox will have as they have had in recent history is power. They led the American League in home runs last year and they should be right around the lead this season as well.
A lineup that features Carlos Quentin, Josh Fields, Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye, barring a lot of injuries, will hit a lot of home runs. All the guys mentioned are expected to hit at least 20 home runs, most of them at least or around 30.
This doesn’t even include the possibility of Gordon Beckham being called up during the season. He will start the season in AA ball as the starting shortstop but it is speculated the position of the future for him with the White Sox is second base because of Alexei Ramirez.
There has been talk that one of the reasons Beckham did not make the major league roster is that the White Sox did not want his MLB service time to starting accruing, much like the situation with Evan Longoria and the Rays last year.
I don’t know how much truth there is to that, but if Beckham starts tearing up AA ball, he will be in Chicago soon.
Regardless of the position he ends up playing the majors, Beckham will be one to watch. He is the most talented player in the White Sox system and has been projected as a five tool guy. He could provide a spark to the White Sox just as Longoria did with the Rays last year.
This could be a very fun and exciting season for the White Sox, but it just as easily could be a disappointing one where the organization takes a step back in hopes to build for the future.
The parallels to last season remain; if the team’s question marks come through they are in good position to challenge for back to back division titles. If they don’t though, it will be a rough year in the South Side of Chicago.